Health, Wellness & Enjoyment, Making Crafty Magic

More on Goals & Limiting Beliefs

owlsThis is a continuation of my last post on goal setting. I’d like to take this opportunity to delve further into Hunter Thompson’s idea of the decision between going with the flow by designing a life that accentuates your experiences and natural talents OR swimming against the current by re-inventing yourself in order to achieve a goal that may not reflect who you are now but instead reflects the person you’ll have to become in order to achieve that goal. (I hope this is making sense.) I can see the merits in both paths and it’s safe to say that I’ve sampled both.

Ever since grade school, I’ve focused heavily on cultivating my natural talents. I played guitar, was in various rock bands, took vocal lessons, wrote fantastic short stories and poetry and won awards for my artwork. Even before that though, I loved animals. I was born into this world with an affinity for and a kinship with animals. So in my senior year I was faced with a dilemma. Should I go to school for art, pursue a recording contract with my band or go to school for Veterinary Technology?

The veterinary work posed various exciting challenges. I was an honors student in remedial math, I wasn’t particularly scientific-minded, and blood & guts made me rather squeamish (a few months earlier I had fainted in front of my entire high school class when we took a tour of an embalming room at a local funeral home and when I toured SUNY Delhi I almost fainted when the guide began talking about analyzing blood samples). Basically, I was going to have to re-make my mind in order to succeed. Plus, it was the only career path that I deemed meaningful at the time. Thus, I enrolled at SUNY Delhi, I got over my squeamishness, and worked my butt off to be a Dean’s List scholar. I poured all my time and effort into swimming against the current, so to speak, at the expense of my creativity. My natural talents began to rust and after a while I was completely unable to write, play music or draw. I had sold my soul for a 3.9 GPA.

After college I began to realize my miscalculation. (Let me be very clear, I have no regrets about choosing that path. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It led me to my absolute best friends and for that I will always be indebted to SUNY Delhi.) It didn’t take long to realize that I had accomplished the only part of the goal that I found enticing: mastering those things that I completely sucked at such as math, playing with blood & guts, enjoying science, etc… When it came time to get a job, the only challenge there was for me was not accidentally killing something during my shift. And the meaning that I desired in my career was sadly lacking. Sure, I was helping some but not in the numbers I’d hoped. It all felt like a big, hollow letdown. And for many years I continued on this detrimental spiral of trying to find meaning in challenging myself to excel at the things I completely sucked at.

Flash forward to nearly twenty years later (I can’t believe it’s been that long!), I still can’t pick up my guitar, I write this here blog but not to the level that I once could, and I have only just started to draw again. But let me tell you, revisiting my creative roots by making all of the things I do and devoting my time and effort to it has helped me to find meaning and it honestly doesn’t feel like work. I am not battling against a constant current and I’m not trying to be good at things that I’m frankly just not good at. I wish I had realized this several college degrees ago because it could have saved me a lot of time, energy, stress and money.Octopi & sea turtle

Now that I’m starting to appreciate the benefits of swimming with the current instead of against it, I want to address some of my limiting beliefs that have made my swim more choppy. I know now that my creative block during and after college stemmed from the belief that one side of your brain is always less developed than the other–the whole right brain, left brain concept. To me this meant that if I devote my time to building up that analytical, scientific side of my brain than my creative side must be sacrificed. As you can tell, I no longer feel this way. You can balance both efficiently by partnering with those who are good at the things you aren’t and just accept the fact that you can’t be a rock star at everything.

Another example is with drawing. I’ve been trying to draw for years and have walked away from all projects feeling completely and utterly defeated. As soon as I’d put the pen to paper my own judgemental monkey mind and internal chatter would overwhelm me. Some of the chatter was about not being as good as someone else which is ridiculous when it comes to art because it’s a subjective experience and therein lies it’s beauty. Some of it is asking if “wasting” my time on something like art is actually contributing to any greater good? Some of it is about goals again and my self-imposed limitations, the biggest one being that I could never make a living this way so why bother? Then a few days ago something changed. I was hired by my friend to make some jewelry for her store. Proof right there that I can make money doing something artistic.

For years, I’ve loathed making jewelry because I’ve never felt like it’s an individual expression of who I am. I would cringe whenever parents looked at my jewelry and said to their kids that they could go home and make the same thing. It made me feel embarrassed and ashamed because I knew I could do better. For the longest time I’ve tried to phase it out but in all honesty, it’s my best seller at craft shows so I can’t rightfully kill the cash cow. My vision was always to make jewelry that expressed my love for animals and art. I’ve been wanting to move in this direction for years but couldn’t get past my own judgements long enough to actually finish a single thing. (Okay, that’s not true, I’ve finished one drawing in the past 20 years and that is the Hazardous Materials skull graphic, which I love).

However, with the deadline approaching for the OC Local Mojo store, I knew I had to bite the bullet and either stay the rather unfulfilling course or tap into those talents that I gave up on so long ago. Last week, I purchased some Sharpie markers, grabbed a few sheets of printer paper and the dam immediately broke. No monkey mind. No peep of mental chatter to speak of. I just dove in and made up my mind to go with the flow by fully honoring my gifts. The drawings have been coming easily and effortlessly ever since and I can’t wait to incorporate them into my jewelry…

After having only completed one drawing in the past 20 years, I’d say these aren’t so bad. In fact, I really love them! Mistakes and all! And it’s absolutely strange because I was always a very precise technical drawer who specialized in extremely tight line-work and was never able to let loose despite my best efforts. Needless to say, I have no idea where this scribble style has come from. Perhaps it can best be explained by this TED talk. I can’t wait to see what some time away has done to my song writing!

So maybe this rant seems rather incoherent. I guess this is my way of saying that swimming against the current and drifting with it both can lead to great places but swimming against the current too far, too long will only leave you spent. I only recommend it in small, exciting bursts.

Health, Wellness & Enjoyment

Being genuine in all endeavors

I’m having an unintentional Brené Brown day and I thought I’d share the wealth. As soon as I fired up my computer, YouTube popped up with her latest video and when I checked my Instagram there she was promoting her Gifts of Imperfection art-journaling e-course (the Festivus snail needs to get me this). I seemingly can’t escape her today! That’s not a bad thing though. If you haven’t heard of the wonderful Brené Brown, I’d suggest starting here and then head on over to here. In a nutshell, she’s a social worker, vulnerability researcher, writer and speaker. More than anything though, she’s unapologetically imperfect and endearingly human.

Ironically, I’ve been looking for a good segue into sharing what I had written when I was working on my conflict resolution e-course. Since I didn’t want to make people pay for the course, I figured I would just share my education and experience on the subject on this here blog. But where does one start when it comes to addressing conflict? This is a difficult topic. Well, with me it all starts and ends with being genuine. A good example of this is what I’ve been sort of waking up to lately. I’ve been feeling rather disillusioned by the people and belief systems that I once put on a pedestal. I’ve put them all under a microscope and let me tell you, I realize that I’ve been sold a meaningless bill of goods/bag-o-garbage and little else. For the last few years, I’ve really delved into the self-help genre and am now coming out this advice coma with the certainty that no one can help me but myself. I have all the answers and what I don’t know, life will teach me so I’ll just have to settle for being an attentive student. The most toxic idea I’ve been sold, thus far, is the idea that my perfect life is out there waiting for me and that a few wise and well-paid strangers can show me the way. Yeah…this is total cock and ballz.

Hollywood and sports run a similar ruse. For us crafters, my friend Kathy aptly named it the Etsy Effect. You read on Etsy how these featured artists quit their day jobs and now they’re living the dream. And week after week, feature after gloriously edited feature, you begin to believe in the dream too. They fail to mention how the artists are just scraping by. How they’re completely run ragged and their health is failing because of it. How they think about re-joining the workforce every second of every day. How they never get to see their families and they are on the cusp of divorce. Or how they have a partner who is working their ass off so they can sit home and make stinky candles. None of this is mentioned. It’s all glitz, glamor, and livin’ the supposed high life.

The self-help genre is very much like this too. Take advice from me because I know the secrets to perfection! Look at how fab my life is! Just pay for my book/e-course and you can unlock all of my secrets to living your best life. (Once you’ve paid, they go on to tell you that perfection doesn’t exist and that you really are enough…umm…so what did you just pay for?) Let me tell you, this is all balderdash! And you fall for this because you are tired: tired of being you; tired of being human; tired of being less than what you think you should be; and more than anything, tired of being less than what these people have you convinced you can be. We never feel like we’re enough. We’re always seeking more and wanting what someone else SEEMS to have. But what is this elusive thing that others claim to have yet we can only strive for? What is this “perfection”? Well, it’s subjective isn’t it? It doesn’t really exist as a static concept and honestly, I don’t want to invest my time in something that doesn’t have any tangible meaning. Do you? So let me challenge you to put your idols under that microscope. Are they being themselves? Do they share their faults in equal measure? Do they share with you their bad days or insecurities? Are they willing to be seen as anything less than perfect? Are they willing to show you how their operation is working behind the fairytale curtain? If not, it’s disingenuous.

For me, Brené Brown is a good example of someone who is genuine. In particular, she resonates with me because she’s willing to speak on behalf of her research–despite her extreme discomfort–and in doing so, she let’s you see her insecurities. When you listen to her, you realize that this person is just like the rest of us. She makes jokes at her own expense, she gets emotional, she shares embarrassing personal stories, etc… She’s a regular human being and yet she’s putting herself out there because her message is too important to not share. She rises above her own doubts and fears out of a genuine desire to help. Basically, she’s fully embraced her subject of inquiry–vulnerability–and she advocates on behalf of it.

2013-08-17 21.45.37Soapbox alert! I truly wish more researchers would follow her lead because not too many people become passionate about science from hearing someone spout off a bunch of numbers and point at graphs. Come on, we just lost Nelson Mandela for goodness sakes! Our heroes are now gone and we’re in desperate need of a few passionate people to step up and take the lead on the seemingly insurmountable environmental, social, economic and political injustices happening today. Science, in some form or another, has at least a partial solution to all of these problems and scientists can be at the forefront of these movements for change, yet no one is stepping forward because we’ve been taught to be unbiased, objective robots who are slaves to the scientific method. But that’s not who we are; it’s not human nature; and luckily people like Brené Brown didn’t get the memo. And before you quantitative researches out there start rolling your eyes and telling me it’s not the same because she’s a “soft scientist” (aka a qualitative researcher) let me just inform you that that excuse is just one of convenience and laziness. Sorry.

So, yes, being genuine is the perfect place for me to start. When you’re not being yourself, your ability to communicate suffers. People are perceptive, intuitive creatures. They’ll catch on and realize that perhaps they shouldn’t trust you. You have to keep in mind that people desperately want connection, respect, and trust. If you disconnect with yourself, you disconnect with others. Communication and conflict resolution is about striving to meet others half way. When you disconnect, you’re not meeting anyone anywhere because you basically haven’t even shown up. For better or worse, you’re basically telling the world that you have no respect for it. Equally important is the idea that if you’re finding faults within yourself, you’re probably finding faults in others. It’s not your job to find fault in anything. No one died and made you the judge and jury. You have to let go of this false sense of control and incessant striving by realizing that you’re imperfect, we’re all imperfect, and that’s as good as it’s ever going to get. Accept it, be done with it, and just let it go.

2013-08-17 21.45.33This is crazy but this is actually what I do: Visualize being stranded in choppy seas, ala Titanic without the freezing water. Before your boat sank, you spent hours packing each and every dark secret, insecurity, bad mistake, unpleasant memory, mean boyfriend, etc… into a suitcase and you have a choice of either holding on to it and having it potentially drag you under the water when the next wave hits OR letting go of the handle and watching it drift off to sea leaving you free to swim to shore. This is how I visualize all my baggage–the stuff I can’t do a darn thing about–and it’s actually helped me to let go of it. I find solace in making the choice to let it go and watching it slowly drift away. It is a choice after all, and one that you have control of.

Being yourself, is perhaps the most difficult, time-consuming task in the entire conflict resolution course and that’s why I wanted to address it first. Before you can figure out the motivations of others and fully embrace the diverse characters this world has wandering around, you have to take a compassionate, forgiving, and accepting look inward. This is not about fostering a self-love that promotes feelings of entitlement or feelings of being better than anyone else. And it’s certainly not about becoming so self-obsessed that you cut yourself off from the rest of the world. Many of the answers you’re looking for are not inside you, they’re in shared life experiences. It’s about nurturing a love of being a quirky human being and taking comfort and finding strength in the knowledge that you aren’t alone in any of it. You’re unique little quirks and incongruities are truly the endearing ties that bind. They make people laugh. People may puzzle over why you are the way you are, like it’s some huge mystery. They may find a kindred spirit in you and now they don’t feel so darn alone anymore. These so-called weaknesses are actually individual strengths that can be used to bring out the best in others. They can make you more approachable, put people at ease, or in the very least help to create common ground.

Take comfort in knowing that if you’re criticized for being you, it’s only because of the insecurities and jealousies of others. Each individual has walked a very different path and with very different tools. You are capable of rising above the petty judgements and acting–instead of reacting–with compassion. Then you’ll realize that you are so much more than enough. You are genuinely, perfectly, imperfect and the world needs all of you in it. Being your most genuine self is sometimes uncomfortable but the benefits outweigh the risks. Word!

Health, Wellness & Enjoyment

Trust

The famous singer/pianist Tori Amos sang in one of her songs, “…the sexiest thing is trust” and I’m certainly not one to question her authority. The sexiest thing is most definitely trust. Trust that someone will put your best interests on the same level as theirs, never purposely hurt you, never keep things from you, and have your back during even the most trying times. Yup, that is definitely sexy, no doubt about that. But trust can also be a slippery little bugger that adamantly refuses to be half-assed. You can’t trust something or someone a little bit or partially. No, it’s an all or nothing deal. At some point in life, there may come a time when you rudely awaken to the harsh, un-sexy reality that your relationship completely lacks it. It’s presence may have been assumed but never confirmed; its existence was never agreed upon by both parties; or maybe the other party has been burned by trust one too many times and now has no respect for it. Any way you slice it, when trust abruptly leaves, it can and will shake you to your core. This moment feels akin to non-stop groin kicks; however, the absolute worst part is realizing that you can no longer trust yourself. Your once sound decision-making skills have all but left you. In order to move on, you’re forced to wade through the rubble of several demolished relationships: the one between you and the other party, perhaps the one between you and the other party’s entire gender, and certainly the one between you and yourself. You desperately turn over each piece of evidence searching for the foundation of what went wrong. Eventually, you realize that it was your own judgment that led you so far astray. You’ve finally located the seismic epicenter where all the aftershocks of self-doubt and questioning have been rippling from. There were so many ignored signs that you refused to see which are now all too obvious in hindsight. You’re shocked to realize that your judgment stealthily high tailed it out of there even before trust showed up to the party. Once you move past the existential blame, you look inward and YOU are called into question. All of your senses involved with making a good decision are highly suspect at this juncture.

Now that you’re reminiscent of nothing more than an emotional heap, you have to face a critical crossroads and what you do with this lack of self-trust can be the determining factor in your road ahead. You can choose to go the victim route by wallowing in past unpleasantries and fashioning a nice little crutch from regret, blame, and entitlement. You’ll more than likely pursue the affections of emotionally unavailable people in order to validate your self-worth–trusting that their affections will be enough to heal the rift between you and your commonsense. And then, when the same cycle is repeated, you’ll spend the bulk of your time wondering why you weren’t good enough for someone else. So before this ends up being you, please eject yourself from the ever spinning tilt-a-whirl, pixie dust yourself off, lift your chin up, and proceed in an upright zig-zag away from this s&m ride.

Take a breather and work on re-establishing the trust that matters most–your own–knowing full well that the validation you’re seeking cannot be found externally. Do not entertain regrets but instead see past mistakes as sometimes ugly but necessary learning experiences. Realize that all actions are informed by our extremely individualized past histories so don’t judge your worth by using someone else’s yardstick. Stay true to your own history and the inherent value of it. There are lessons in there that you need to learn, grow from and overcome. This rich history of follies and foibles is the foundation of your judgment. Remember to use it by choosing to forgive yourself and others. No one is truly perfect. We’re all a little messed up in our own way and sometimes our ways simply don’t jive with those of others. Leave them unharmed and gravitate towards those who challenge you to be a more joyous and giving person. Accept the wrong that’s been done to you and move on, vowing to be a better listener and follower of your inner voice the next time around. For judgment and self-trust are both fleeting things if not firmly gripped; however, they will never cut and run again if you maintain this intention of being your own best advocate. Remember that trusting someone else is a leap of faith but trusting yourself first is the only way to provide a solid platform to make that leap. More than anything, keep your chin up and never give up on yourself and others. You will be pleasantly surprised!

Health, Wellness & Enjoyment

The Measure of Success

Success, to me, is almost too vague of a word to have any real definitive meaning or value without having any clear metrics in place for measuring it. Just a few days ago I was enjoying dinner with a forest ecologist and a sociologist (no, this is not the set-up for a joke). The conversation quickly turned into a heated debate on what it means for a tree to be successful. The sociologist, having previously owned an apple orchard, saw success as being measured solely in fruit production. The forest ecologist saw success as being the amount of physical biomass accumulated by the tree that will in turn benefit other species by way of increased foraging opportunities, shade, habitat, decay, etc… Eventually, they both agreed to disagree and we were back to enjoying a peaceful meal. However, my point is that we all have different metrics, or ways of measuring success, whether it be for trees or ourselves or probably anything for that matter.

Today’s society would tell us that there are a two overarching metrics for success: monetary wealth and fame. The second tier of success being  higher education, job status, marriage, number of children, an enormous home you can’t afford and perhaps mini-van ownership. For me, measuring my life’s contributions in terms of any of these things would be unjustly undervaluing everything I stand for. I often tell people that I’m the most successful unsuccessful person they will ever meet. It‘s a funny statement and I say it with humor but it‘s terribly true. On paper, I’m swimming in collegiate degrees, state licenses, advanced study certifications and at the age of 37, I‘ve already amassed a lifetimes worth of experience in a wide-variety of fields. (Funny story: my master’s advisor accepted me as his student, not because of my grades, but because my resume was so interesting that he had to meet me.) In my life, I’ve come to numerous crossroads (as I’m sure you have too), where I had to decide between the decent paying, yet soul-sucking, 9 to 5 job and the creative, yet underpaying, job. My first real jobs were the absolute soul-sucking worst but they provided me with a nice apartment, financial security, spending money, a Jeep, a Mercedes, a boat, a motorcycle, a plethora of exotic and domestic animals, and for reasons I don’t even understand to this day, a dune buggy. In my early twenties, I was well on my way to achieving “real success.” But very quickly, misery seeped in. There was a this nagging voice in my head that just got louder and louder with each soul-sucking day, telling me in no uncertain terms that I was being completely untrue to the person I always wanted to be. That adorable little girl with the peanut butter and jelly smeared all over her face, the one who used to enjoy getting dirty and catching critters, the one with the invisible monster for a best friend would never let society dictate her life’s meaning. Needless to say, life became a hard pill to swallow and eventually I was forced to re-examine my values and my definition of success.  In one seemingly split second, I left my job, my boyfriend (coincidentally, on the same day he was going to propose), and all the toys behind and started over. I don’t look back on those years with regret because they forced me to be brutally honest with myself. The truth is that I will be in debt for the rest of my life, I will always want to live in a camper instead of a mansion, I will more than likely remain an unmarried spinster surrounded by too many dogs and cats, I will probably never have a gaggle of little rug-rats running around, and I will never aspire to fortune and fame. Truthfully, some of that has been a struggle for me to make peace with and some has been all too easy to let go of. Nevertheless, the peace has been made. This is me determining my own metric and being okay with not living up to society’s standards. Instead, my life is measured by the number of people, places and things I’ve made better. That’s it–plain and simple. If I’ve made someone smile while reading this or if my words inspire someone to improve their own situation, then my goal has been reached for the day. A mental check mark goes in my success column for the day. And now whenever I’m at a crossroads, I always veer away from the soul-sucking opportunities that I know will compromise my values and move towards the ones that offer me the most personal growth, discomfort, and challenge. The newfangled catchphrase sweeping the nation is that you have to “lean into the discomfort” and for once, I think the self-help gurus have got it right. It’s the path of most resistance both personally and financially, but I believe it to be the most fulfilling.

There are many ways to think of success. Are you the artist who dies penniless and relatively unknown but your life’s work is worshiped by all for centuries to come? Are you the business owner who works tirelessly to increase your bottom line, gain financial security, and die having amassed as many toys as possible? Are you the tree, whose limitless contributions remain the hot point of debate around the dinner table?  There comes a time when we all should be honest with ourselves and be clear about our own values, intentions, and vision of what success looks like for us as individuals. Word to the wise, whatever you do, don‘t compare or adopt someone else’s metric. This is as individual of a choice as you can get–even more individual than how you like your eggs or if you prefer the Rolling Stones over the Beatles or if chunky peanut butter is waaay tastier than the smooth variety. You will never be truly happy until you find your own system of measure.

Uncategorized

The Year in Review

DSCF1528
Yup, I moved into this crazy place.

December marks the one year anniversary of leaving my seemingly perfect job at the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, New York and moving four hours away to live in an old barn with three other people. My main goal was to remain jobless as long as humanly possible. What in God’s green earth was I thinking?! All I knew was that I was unhappy where I was in every aspect of my life. In the darkest moments you begin to hear this faint voice that tells you to take a chance. It wakes up with you Monday through Friday and tauntingly reminds you of how monotonous and meaningless your life is. It’s the voice you stuff back down inside in order to get through another soul-sucking day. It tells you to do something drastic. It tells you the time is now to take back your life at any and all costs. A year ago I figured things couldn’t get any worse so I turned up the volume and the voice became my permanent station. Soon after, an opportunity to live with some friends presented itself and I went with it. Do I have any regrets? My answer is a wishy-washy version of not really. I will elaborate but please forgive the cheesy metaphors.

A Little Inspiration for Those on the EdgeDSCF1635

I truly believe that if you’re unsatisfied with your life, drastic measures are called for. Big changes need to happen. A myriad of little band-aids don’t work when you’re trying to fix something of this magnitude. You have to hurl yourself out of your comfort zone and into the complete unknown. Identify your biggest fear,  run towards it, close your eyes and dive in. Don’t walk, don’t hesitate at the last minute, and whatever you do, don’t look back. Just plow ahead like the unstoppable force you are. Moreover, don’t listen to what other people tell you if your gut is saying the exact opposite. You know yourself better than they do. If I had a nickle for every person who told me not to quit my job because of the economy I would be very rich. Luckily I didn’t listen because now I’m making more money than I was when people were projecting their own fears on to me. Jumping is the only way to get unstuck, but it’s the farthest thing from easy. It requires growing a pair. The unknown is a scary bitch that can slap you in the face but it can also generously reward you for your efforts.

Career

wpid-img_20120922_105300This year has been a time of great clarity for me. I’ve definitely learned what I don’t want to do. Some experts will tell you to employ the spaghetti method when it comes to career planning. Just throw everything out into the world and see what sticks, especially if you’re unsure of which skills will resonate with consumers. I like that idea a lot and this year has definitely been dedicated to the spaghetti method. Have you seen the laundry list of services I offer on my http://www.pos-energies.com site? It’s craziness but that’s the spaghetti method at work. This year has helped me narrow down that list to the things that I really want to do. I can tell you that the mediation and conflict resolution services I offer, they don’t really do it for me. That’s probably why I’ve been hesitant to invest money in advertising those services. Do I want to go into businesses and help them improve their conflict resolution skills? Not really. I’ve been there in all that mess. I was a mediator and it was fun but it’s not really my thing. Do I want to teach interested parties the fundamentals of resolving conflicts wherever they are in the world? Yup.  So this next year is going to be about offering more teaching opportunities instead of consulting opportunities. There will be online classes and book options happening after the new year. The first book will actually be a journal for reverse engineering life and will feature Cassie’s wonderful artwork–but more on that another time. However, I should say that I will be taking several months off from soaping/crafting to focus on writing so get my products while you can.

That brings me to another thing that I’ve gained from all this: a heightened sense of self-awareness. You never know what you’re made of until you make that jump and you find you’ve landed on a slowly sinking ship (I have no job, I need to pay rent, I have too much debt, I have no marketable skills, I’m overqualified for everything, all the good paying jobs are taken, I’m alone in this, etc…). A lot of panicked fumbling occurs but you can never let it take over and render you useless. You will do stupid things if you panic (ie. take a job that’s worse than the one you left behind). In the end, you have to have faith in yourself and know that you will use all of your innate resources to pull that ship to shore. Then you get to rebuild it the way you always wanted to. When you jump, you hang on to the important stuff and the rest you have to let wash away. I know now what aspects of myself I will always hang on to and the ones that need to sink. For example, I’ve learned that I’m a workaholic, unnecessarily so. I was very much brought up to believe that all of your free time was to be spent working. It’s crazy but true. I was made to feel very guilty if I wasn’t being productive. There was never any relaxing and watching a movie without doing something else at the same time. The main goal of every project was to earn money from it; To find that magical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This is perhaps my biggest career downfall. If you start something creative with the intent of getting rich (or earning any amount of money) from it, you are going to be sorely disappointed. There are no riches to be had from being disingenuous. You really have to do what you love, put your heart into it, and not care about payment.

Ugly Habits

So my inability to relax and have fun is a habit I’m trying to break but this year I’ve done the worst possible job of it ever. I work with Alzheimer’s patients about 20 to 30 hours/week; I run the soap and crafting business which entails making products, graphic design (which I’m awful at), packaging, labeling, ordering materials, packing & shipping, marketing, blogging, webdesign, filling stores and participating in shows; I usually have several special order sewing projects that I’m months behind on; I teach classes at Jo-Ann Fabrics and elsewhere; I sometimes pick up shifts at stores if they need help; and I try to write what little I can for the positive energies blog. In total it adds up to about 60 hours/week. I have no life, I’m tired and it certainly isn’t something that I was wishing for a year ago. For the sake of my sanity, some of these things have to be cut and I’m okay with it. Like I’ve said, I’m clearer with what I want to do so I can happily make some cuts.

Datingme & tuna

For the past few years I’ve purposefully taken a break from dating. It’s fair to say that relationships are not my strong suit. Instead of scoring super steamy dates, I’ve decided to focus what little free time I have on friendships. However, the irony is that most of my friends are getting married, having kids, or finding new love. Thus, friends like me are now only an occasional treat. It’s definitely led to feelings of loneliness and isolation (I’m fully acknowledging that most of this isolation is self-imposed.). Apparently I’m one of the few subscribers to the “it takes a village concept.” I don’t believe that any one person can be your everything and I don’t think it’s fair to put that burden on someone else. However, many people conduct relationships in this manner. Once you find that special someone, everyone else becomes marginalized. With all of that being said, I’m actually really happy for all of my friends who are on their way to domestic bliss. I know that time is the limiting factor in our relationship, not a lack of caring. I’m thankful to have them in any capacity possible. I don’t take any of this personally. I’ve been there. More than anything I wish them happiness which in turn makes me feel good.

DSCF1930Friendships

I’ve had some major disappointments in the past year as far as friendships go. Ironically, I was half-way through designing my online conflict resolution class and I couldn’t help thinking that there were a few more lessons I needed to learn before I put it out into the world. And lessons I learned! Like I said in previous paragraphs, once you take that blind jump from the sinking ship that is your life, you get the chance to rebuild. You’ve now identified your necessities and the rest you’ve let wash away. The first thing to wash away is your baggage. Now is the perfect time to ditch it once and for all. You realize that all the crap you were holding on to about other people, past relationships, and yourself is pulling you under. This year I finally let my baggage sink for good. It was a quaint little burial at sea. A good example of this is my relationship with one of the people who I moved to be closer to. For a variety of reasons that I won’t get into here, our friendship started going south. I was really angry with her for a little while and then I acknowledged how much I hate carrying that burden. I took a few minutes to objectively ponder all of the potential reasons for her actions. I considered her values, her upbringing, her current life situation, her personality and the anger turned to understanding. I don’t believe that it’s morally right to try to change someone to suit your own needs. All you can do is meet people where they’re at. I saw where she was at in her life and I readjusted my demeanor to meet her there. I keep her at arms length instead of close but that’s okay. Our exchanges are funny and light and that seems to work. Best of all, I hold no anger towards her. I began taking a similar approach to all of my baggage and over time it all just fell away. Forgiveness if overrated and in most cases unattainable but understanding can be achieved with relative ease. Sure, I still have a great time gossiping about others and talking smack but in reality I hold no ill will towards anyone anymore.

Parting Thoughts

So as you can see, there is a reason for that wishy-washy answer to the question of if I have any regrets. I think I’ve laid a solid foundation for the next few years but it wasn’t easy. Just remember that nothing worth doing is. I also want to quickly get back to the idea of self-awareness. There are some things I need to come clean about and like it or not, here they are:

* I hoard 70’s style jumpsuits, old lady costume jewelry, and neckerchiefs, ascots & cravats.

* I’m strangely attracted to tight fitting gloves. Maybe it’s an OJ thing.

* I think overalls are acceptable attire for any occasion.

* I truly am disappointed that I can’t grow facial hair. If you can, I don’t understand why you aren’t sculpting something awesome on your face.

* I think Hannibal is one of the most romantic movies I’ve ever seen. When Anthony Hopkins chops off his own hand rather than Julianne Moore’s, I swoon.

* My idea of heaven is a judgement-free shoe store where the employees encourage me to lick any and every pair.

* I firmly believe you should never turn the radio when the Ramones, the Police or the Cars are on. Even if it’s a crappy song, you will not find a better one when you turn the channel so just leave the dial alone, give in and enjoy.

* As much as I still want to hold on to my rock-and-roll/heavy metal roots, I find myself enjoying 80’s music more and more as time goes by. I’ve fought this for so long but now I think it’s time to end the charade.

* If you’re ever wondering what I’m thinking, I’m more than likely thinking one or all of the following things. They are on a non-stop, continuous loop in my head. “It is what it is, darlin.”  (Thanks to Dave Bagley for that one.) “Accept and move on.” (Thank you Sarah for burning that one into my mind.) and “Fuck em and feed em fish.” (That’s a Grillo-ism).

Musings

Bravery is it’s own reward

DSCF1581
My housemate was running so darn fast that despite having my finger on the trigger for a half hour waiting for her to pass by, I could only catch her calf in action. See the lovely red printed leggings in the photo? That’s her in action.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day! I hope you are having a pint for me because I’m sure going to have one for you! Last weekend my housemates and I attended the Kingston St. Paddy’s Day parade. It was lovely to walk along the crowded streets with a thermos of Chai and Irish Cream (trust me, it’s a great combo) and just take in all of the festivities with good friends. It was also nice to meet a lot of interesting new characters as well as see old friends again. All of that aside, I wanted to write about my friend and housemate because her story may resonate with you on some level. She conquered her fear of crowds that day and she did it with complete gusto. She has a very rational fear of large crowds; however, I asked her to go to the parade with me and she said–with understandable trepidation–yes. What we did before the event was to talk about the worst case scenario and together we planned for it. That way, no matter what happened, we had a plan and she would never feel that the situation was beyond her control. Well, she went above and beyond by deciding to run in the 3k race at the beginning of the parade. That way, she had something very positive to focus on, instead of focusing on her fear. She literally ran the race in a crowd of hundreds of people. Talk about jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire! Then, we lost her after the race and the worst case scenario planning kicked in. We were able to find her at a prearranged meeting spot and she was completely happy and relaxed. We spent the rest of the day among the hoards of jubilant people and it was glorious.

Fear is a tricky thing. It’s not so much fear but the loss of control that is scary. We love our control. If we all had our druthers we would avoid confronting our fears at all costs, but it wears you down over time. Like it or not, it’s best to confront the things that hold you back from fully enjoying life. You know this. So now do something about it.

1. Ask yourself what the worst case scenario is AND plan for it. Instead of focusing on the worst thing that could happen (which is out of your control), move past it towards the solution that you can control. Nine times out of ten the worst case scenario will never happen and everything in between is cake because you know you can handle it.

2. Have a support system in place and make sure they all know what to do if the worst case scenario does occur. That way, you are all on the same page and there is more control of the outcome.

3. Face your fears with gusto like my housemate did. Sure, going to the parade would have been fun but it probably wouldn’t have excited her like running the race did. It gave her something that she could really look forward to. Finishing the race gave her a goal to focus on instead of focusing on her fear. Plus, that crowd she feared was transformed into a group of like-minded individuals that were there to push her forward towards the finish line. She was doing the work of re-writing her mental idea of what a crowd means to her by giving it a positive association. If you’re afraid of heights, for example, climb that beautiful mountain that you’ve always wanted to instead of going to the top of some tall office building and looking out through the dirty glass. If you’re not looking forward to it, you won’t do it.

4. Celebrate your accomplishment and keep tackling all the things that hold you back.

Musings

Food for thought

I was just emailed two very inspirational items that  are worth sharing.

The first one is a very well-done video about getting back to basics featuring Willie Nelson covering my favorite Coldplay song, The Scientist. The pairing of the visual message and the music is perfect and moving.

The second video is from the TED series of talks. If you haven’t watched TED talks you are missing out. I can certainly relate to this video of Lissa Rankin, MD and I think she hit the nail on the head. I  love reading web comments and some people I think have missed the point of her talk. The point is that your mental health should never be ignored, instead, it should be a priority. Don’t put your happiness on the back-burner because it will eventually make you sick.